There’s a valuable lesson I learned a few years ago that I think is applicable in just about EVERY area of ministry. (In fact, I would say that there isn’t ANY area in or out of ministry that can’t apply this principle.) And it’s so crazy-easy to implement. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t start taking this one simple step years ago!

The big lesson I learned is pretty simple: Make all of your “post-VBS” plans “pre-VBS.”

Of course, this is not a principle that is new to anyone. But for some reason, everything that needs to happen leading up to an event takes priority over all of the important follow-up tasks.

Luckily, my team is diligent to plan ahead for our post-event planning. Now, you can substitute anything for “event” in that sentence—post-season, post-school year, post-launch, post-meeting, post-training, etc. But the important idea here is that making a plan before you’re exhausted and completely “over it” will not only make this year’s VBS better, but it will also affect next year’s VBS. Don’t let the momentum stop when VBS ends!

Here are some of the items that we put on our post-VBS to do list:

  • Plan VBS Volunteer Appreciation
  • Set VBS Debrief Meeting Dates
  • Create a System for Making Notes to Remember for Next Year
  • Create a Plan for VBS Evaluation and VBS Feedback

Today, I want to focus that last item. It is so incredibly important to get feedback from different groups that are part of your VBS program. I highly recommend getting feedback from at least your VBS volunteers and your VBS families. Our most effective method of getting this feedback is with VBS Evaluation Forms.

I’ve seen a few people in our Orange VBS Facebook Group discuss or share their VBS Evaluation Forms and everyone is always so appreciative. So I thought this would be a great topic to start with on our VBS blog journey!

Today, I’d like to focus on the feedback to collect from the families participating in VBS. Later this month, I’ll share how we collect feedback from VBS volunteers, so hang tight for the follow-up blog post to this one.

For families, we prefer to give parents a short survey that they can fill out right there before leaving VBS on the final day. For our team, that’s just easier—while the experience is in the forefront of the parents’ minds. But if you prefer, you can definitely create a digital survey to send via email or use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Wufoo to collect feedback.

Regardless of your method of sending out a survey or form, the real key is making sure that you have relevant and helpful questions. Start with your ministry’s goal for VBS and craft your questions around that specific item in order to determine if you achieved your goal and how you can improve for next year.

As a stab in the dark, I would guess that most churches have a similar goal for Vacation Bible School; something like, “reaching the community and influencing a kid’s faith journey.”

Your VBS Evaluation should make every parent feel like they are known and are part of your ministry family. Therefore, I would recommend steering clear of directly asking parents whether or not they already attend or have ever attended your church on an evaluation form. Ideally, you’ll already know this information based on their registration information and your regular attendance rolls.

Feedback forms can quickly become a place for negativity, and that’s definitely not the goal! A few questions that we ask in a very positive way are below:

  1. What was your child’s favorite part of VBS?
  2. My child(ren) enjoyed VBS and got a lot out of it. (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree) – BE SURE TO LEAVE SPACE TO EXPLAIN
  3. What is one positive experience your child(ren) had at this year’s VBS?
  4. Suggestions or comments on how to improve VBS in the future?
  5. VBS was well-organized and ran smoothly. (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree) – BE SURE TO LEAVE SPACE TO EXPLAIN

I know I said that there were only five crucial questions for your VBS Evaluation Form. But I’m sneaking in a BONUS sixth question that I think you’ll really appreciate!

6. Are you interested in volunteering for VBS in the future? (YES, NO)

That very last question we ask parents has been SO helpful for us in the past! We ask them right there whether or not they’re interested in volunteering for VBS in the future. And they can simply circle “yes” or “no”. This is not a commitment. And it doesn’t need a lot of explanation. It’s just a way to gauge interest and get some names to put on the list for contacting about volunteering next year. You’re already getting started on the right foot for VBS 2020!

Here’s the only catch—our evaluations are anonymous, so we have someone quickly scan the response to this last question as forms are turned in and get names and email addresses for anyone that marks “yes.” This ensures that parents know their feedback is still anonymous. But it presents the opportunity to show interest at the end of a SUPER-fun week for their kids!

BONUS: The feedback you collect from these forms will often provide really encouraging stories to share with your volunteers and team leaders. Don’t miss this opportunity to share the positive comments far and wide! Also, feel free to include your church’s leadership on these notes of encouragement if you’re sending them out over email. Bragging about the impact your team has had will earn INFLUENCE, INFLUENCE, INFLUENCE!

Now, for the next step in this VBS Evaluation process: reviewing the feedback. What do you do with all of the surveys or forms once they’re turned in? It’s easy to let these forms sit in a pile on your desk—always a reminder that VBS 2019 isn’t quite over yet. But that’s not really very helpful. So let’s put a SIMPLE plan in place to make sure parents are heard and we take their VBS Feedback to heart.

We generally do a one-touch sorting process. This simply means that we (meaning me) read the forms and put them into a few different piles.

  1. Feedback that is helpful and should be noted for VBS 2020.
  2. Feedback that is helpful but should remain private (I’ll explain).
  3. Feedback that isn’t helpful.

The first category is pretty self-explanatory. These cards will immediately be transcribed into a spreadsheet or a document with ideas for the team to consider either at our VBS 2019 debrief or as we are getting started with planning for VBS 2020. Remember that this is a great way to make it easy to recall lessons learned this year when you begin working on next year.

The second category is a bit tricky. In my experience, we occasionally get feedback that is worth noting but not anything I should share with the team at large. It either calls out a person specifically or has the potential to really hurt someone’s feelings. Again, this is pretty rare. But it has happened. And these cases should be investigated further, if possible, and then addressed in an appropriate way.

The last category is for all of those suggestions that would take your VBS program off track or away from the mission of your ministry. It’s important to have this filter in place because your goal or mission should always be the driving factor in your decision-making process and planning process.

[This is a lot of information. Pause for a breath – you’ve got this!]

Remember, a strategic and helpful process requires sifting out a lot of the questions that we tend to want included.

As a bonus, I’m including a free download of a VBS Evaluation Form for Parents. It comes in two formats – a PDF as well as a Microsoft Word document. Feel free to use this as a jumping off point for your own evaluation or use this as is!

May your VBS planning be fun, fulfilling, and worth every second you put into it!

Keep Calm and VBS On!

VBS Evaluation Forms should include these 5 critical questions (Spoiler: There is a sixth question that you're going to LOVE!)